My preferred mental state when I fly is to be unconscious. I am terrified of flying and in order to cope with what is a necessary evil in this modern age, I turn to the world of pharmaceuticals. I pop a couple of Xanax, down a glass of wine, turn on my iPod (which has a carefully selected playlist of songs that do not mention death, dying, or fire-filled fuselage and debris ), and drift away to la-la land. I awake to the sensation of a flight attendant jabbing me in the shoulder, saying in a voice slightly tinged with panic, “Ma’am, wake up. Can you hear me? Wake up please! We are here!!” Groggily, I wipe the drool from my chin and stumble out of the plane to my final destination, blissfully unaware of everything that transpired at 36,000 feet.
Of course, with children, this scenario is not an option- not unless you want child protective services to greet you at touchdown. Air travel with kids….sigh. Where to begin? Flying without kids, at best, can be an exercise in humiliation (TSA pat down, anyone?), frustration (seriously people, how can you NOT know the 3 ounce rule by now?), and stamina (15 minutes to sprint to your connecting flight with 2 carry-ons and no food in the past 3 hours!). With kids, however, I find it difficult to even articulate what air travel is like. The words “soul-sucking” come to mind; as do “hell on earth” and “we must have been bat-shit crazy to do this.”
This past week, we experienced all these joyous sensations afresh with a trip to Texas with our girls. We flew out of Minneapolis last Wednesday and I saw this vending machine near our gate:
While I applaud the good people of the Minneapolis-St Paul airport for attempting to help parents in need, what they really needed to stock it with were these for some hands-free liquid courage:
And possibly some individually wrapped cyanide pills in case you need to make a graceful mid-air exit. Or maybe some pre-printed cards stating you are a deaf-mute and unable to hear the screams and howls emanating from your offspring. Just a thought.
My last flight with the girls to Texas ended with Sarah dry-heaving into an air sick bag, Katie screaming at decibels that required Bose-headphones to drown out, and me sweating copious amounts of perspiration from my armpits, forehead, and upper lip. I was by myself and I distinctly remember the twenty-something men behind me wondering aloud if I was a single mother or perhaps heading to a funeral…why else would I voluntarily choose to fly alone with two demon children?
So it was with much trepidation that I embarked on this flight. We boarded the plane and as always, I stared longingly at those passengers seated in first class. Back when I was a “career gal,” I too had titanium-rock-star status and would get upgraded to first class. Pre-flight drink in hand, I remember watching families board with undisguised disgust on my face- as if they were lepers during biblical times. Couldn’t these people and their mucous-dripping, poopy-smelling, howler-monkey children stay at home?? Ten years later and yes, now I have become what I once mocked. That, my friends, is called the “circle of life.”
My husband and I herd our children to the very back row the plane. My walk to the last row is littered with apologies for bonking people in the head with my diaper bag or because one of my daughters has chosen to wipe snot on someone’s seat. We settle Sarah, Katie, and their entourage of stuffed animals into our oh-so-comfy chairs and let the stink of stale air, day old coffee, and urine soak into our clothes. And then, the countdown begins. How fast can we make it to 10,000 feet so I can turn on iPads, iPhones, DVD players, and any other electrical gadget to keep Sarah and, hopefully, Katie occupied? And I am ecstatic to report that at long last, we have reached a major milestone with Katie:
Notice that she is NOT attempting to climb over the seat in front of her nor is she slapping me across the face or biting my outstretched hand, but is instead, watching the DVD player AND has commandeered my iPhone. Not that I minded– anything in the name of appeasement. At this point, if she had asked for a shot of Jack Daniels, I probably would have just asked, “Straight or on the rocks?” and gone back to the galley to pour it for her.
And at the end of the flight….another milestone. No longer are Chris and I pack mules for our children and their gear. They are earning their keep!
So yes, my husband and I are hopeful that we are reaching the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe one day soon, I can again lovingly pull out my bottle of Xanax, bid my children good night, and have them jab me in the shoulder and wake me up when we land.